Phenome-Wide Association Study for Alcohol and Nicotine Risk Alleles in 26394 Women

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2016 Oct;41(11):2688-96. doi: 10.1038/npp.2016.72. Epub 2016 May 17.


To identify novel traits associated with alleles known to predispose to alcohol and nicotine use, we conducted a phenome-wide association study (PheWAS) in a large multi-population cohort. We investigated 7688 African-Americans, 1133 Asian-Americans, 14 081 European-Americans, and 3492 Hispanic-Americans from the Women's Health Initiative, analyzing alleles at the CHRNA3-CHRNA5 locus, ADH1B, and ALDH2 with respect to phenotypic traits related to anthropometric characteristics, dietary habits, social status, psychological traits, reproductive history, health conditions, and nicotine/alcohol use. In ADH1B trans-population meta-analysis and population-specific analysis, we replicated prior associations with drinking behaviors and identified multiple novel phenome-wide significant and suggestive findings related to psychological traits, socioeconomic status, vascular/metabolic conditions, and reproductive health. We then applied Bayesian network learning algorithms to provide insight into the causative relationships of the novel ADH1B associations: ADH1B appears to affect phenotypic traits via both alcohol-mediated and alcohol-independent effects. In an independent sample of 2379 subjects, we also replicated the novel ADH1B associations related to socioeconomic status (household gross income and highest grade finished in school). For CHRNA3-CHRNA5 risk alleles, we replicated association with smoking behaviors, lung cancer, and asthma. There were also novel suggestive CHRNA3-CHRNA5 findings with respect to high-cholesterol-medication use and distrustful attitude. In conclusion, the genetics of alcohol and tobacco use potentially has broader implications on physical and mental health than is currently recognized. In particular, ADH1B may be a gene relevant for the human phenome via both alcohol metabolism-related mechanisms and other alcohol metabolism-independent mechanisms.

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Dehydrogenase / genetics*
  • Alcohol Drinking / ethnology
  • Alcohol Drinking / genetics*
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Ethnicity
  • Female
  • Genetic Association Studies
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Phenotype
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics*
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / genetics*
  • Smoking / ethnology
  • Smoking / genetics*
  • United States


  • CHRNA5 protein, human
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Receptors, Nicotinic
  • nicotinic acetylcholine receptor alpha4 subunit
  • nicotinic receptor subunit alpha3
  • ADH1B protein, human
  • Alcohol Dehydrogenase

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